Friday, May 13, 2011

Forgotten Books: Your Turn to Curtsy My Turn to Bow - William Goldman

William Goldman is best known for his screenplays, like BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, and his thrillers like MARATHON MAN and MAGIC, many of which were made into movies for which Goldman wrote the scripts.


But he started his career with mainstream novels like this one, along with BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER, THE TEMPLE OF GOLD, and SOLDIER IN THE RAIN, which were very popular in the late Fifties and early Sixties but have sort of faded from view over the years.


YOUR TURN TO CURTSY MY TURN TO BOW is a summer camp novel, which almost automatically means that it’s a coming of age novel as well. Peter Bell, who is sort of the narrator (Goldman switches back and forth between first person and third person), has just graduated from high school and goes to Camp Blackpine to be a counselor for the summer. The camp is owned by acquaintances of Peter’s father, so he knows the young man in charge of the counselors, Granville “Granny” Kemper. Also working at the camp is Chad Kimberly, golden boy football hero on the surface but a troubled young man underneath. Then there’s Tillie Keck, the beautiful, redheaded, teenage niece of the camp’s secretary, who is also living there. See where this is going?


Goldman’s prose is a little self-consciously literary, but at heart this short novel is a soap opera complete with insanity, mutilation, angst, and a touch of sex. The cover copy makes it sound like the book is all about sex, but it really isn’t. It’s a pretty good story, although I think my favorite summer camp novel is still Herman Wouk’s THE CITY BOY. I’ve got to reread that one and post about it one of these days.


In the meantime, YOUR TURN TO CURTSY MY TURN TO BOW probably has to be considered one of Goldman’s minor works, but I enjoyed it anyway. The used bookstores used to be full of this and his other early novels, but I imagine they’re more difficult to find now. If you run across a copy, it’s worth reading.

11 comments:

John said...

Now this is why I read the Forgotten Books post. One I never knew of by a writer I admire. Thanks for this.

George said...

William Goldman is best known for his Hollywood scripts, but he can write wonderful novels, too. Did that package I mailed off to you arrive yet?

Todd Mason said...

I think William Kotzwinkle's JACK IN THE BOX, one of the most disturbing of all summer-camp novels, might be enough to keep me away from all others. (I think of it as THE SHORT TIMERS of camp novels.) It did help make my own un-great Scout camp experience look idyllic in comparison.

I have several novels I've been meaning to dig back out...from Goldman's peers of about that time...

James Reasoner said...

George,
The package arrived safely today. Many thanks! I plan to read the Forsyth novel in the next couple of weeks.

Todd,
I hadn't heard of that Kotzwinkle novel. I may have to check it out. I never went to summer camp of any kind, but I've seen a lot of movies and read a lot of books set there.

Brian Busby said...

I read Your Turn to Curtsey, My Turn to Bow as a teenager looking for his own "initiation into physical love". The cover does attract. I remember it as being a fine novel - as is the thick as a brick Boys and Girls Together.

The most disturbing summer camp novel I've read is William Butler's The Butterfly Revolution... but then, I've read so few.

George said...

I think you're going to like DAY OF THE JACKAL, James.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a thumbs up or down on Marathon Man? It's in our library system.

Ed Lynskey

George said...

I enjoyed both Goldman's novel and the movie based in it, Ed.

Martin O'Hearn said...

The Bantam mid-Sixties editions like this would be the ones to look for. James Bama did the covers to the others too, as I remember.

James Reasoner said...

Ed,
I've only seen the movie, but I remember liking it.

Martin,
I didn't realize that cover was Bama's work. I just knew I liked it. Now I know why.

Kent Morgan said...

I've got a copy with that cover somewhere in my garage. I hate it when someone does a Forgotten Books on a book that is in a forgotten location.